Can You Keep a Secret?, 2019.
Directed by Elise Duran.
Starring Alexandra Daddario, Tyler Hoechlin, Laverne Cox, Sunita Mani, Kimiko Glenn, David Ebert and Kate Easton.
Thinking they’re about to crash, Emma spills her secrets to a stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger… until she later meets Jack, her company’s young CEO, who now knows every humiliating detail about her.
Based on a novel by popular women’s fiction author Sophie Kinsella (Confessions of a Shopaholic series), Can You Keep a Secret? is a by-the-numbers, reasonably faithful adaptation, although it changes the location and characters to the US (much as with Confessions). It’s a shame, as there’s something intrinsically British about Kinsella’s heroines and their bumbling yet winning ways that’s wiped out by this swap, but Can You Keep a Secret? does make an effort to nail some of the novel’s important details.
The premise of the film is simple: After a disastrous work meeting, Emma Corrigan (Alexandra Daddario), a nervous flyer, gets drunk in the airport bar and then blurts out all of her secrets in a panic to the handsome stranger sitting next to her when their plane hits some turbulence. It then quickly transpires that said stranger was, in fact, her firm’s enigmatic CEO, Jack Harper (Tyler Hoechlin) – who now knows all of her deepest, darkest (often toe-curling) secrets. This hideous scenario lends then itself to a lot of relatable embarrassment and terror in the aftermath, as Emma tries to work out how to erase – or put right – all the things she told him.
Although the film dives straight into the storyline, it does take a little while for Daddario and Hoechlin to warm up – likely because their characters have been thrown head-first into the mix without much grounding or context for the audience. There’s no inner monologue to establish things here, as in the book. However, things settle into a nice groove once Jack turns up at the office and starts disrupting Emma’s work and love life, and the actors’ chemistry gets a chance to glow.
All of the best, most cringey confessions of Emma’s from the book are laid bare, slowly revealing themselves to Jack, from how she feeds the office bitch Artemis’ (Kate Easton) plant orange juice, to her and her friend’s “looking through numbers” coffee break code, and her pretence at having read Great Expectations. Fortunately, he’s only too happy to share his past “Leopold file” code with Emma, in solidarity.
Unfortunately, the strong family element from the novel is completely removed from Can You Keep a Secret? as a film. Emma’s close but complicated relationship with her parents and horribly competitive cousin Kerry explains a lot about her insecurities, as well as providing an epic moment of revenge during a corporate family day. This omission from the film stunts Emma’s development a bit as a character, and makes the film centre on her relationship with Jack as the main thing providing her with validation (or not).
There are some nice supporting turns in the cast, from Laverne Cox as Emma’s snappy boss Cybill to David Ebert as Emma’s steady but awkward boyfriend Connor, even if their character development isn’t always fully there. Kimiko Glenn is a particular standout as the dark and superficial Gemma, Emma’s rather off-kilter roommate with a dangerous lack of taste in clothes.
The biggest flaw of Can You Keep a Secret?, unfortunately, is a disappointing flag during the final act of the film, following the inevitable souring of Jack and Emma’s relationship, the start of which has already been whipped through rather too quickly. As the entire premise of the film – and Emma’s development – hangs simply on this, the story’s scope seems really limited, with low stakes, and becomes very run-of-the-mill. Daddario and Hoechlin are doing their best, but they deserve better than what they end up receiving with this screenplay: Daddario does well as a goofy but appealing girl-next-door, but the remit of her role revolves around obtaining the approval of a guy. Hoechlin is suitably attractive and charming, but surely rather lacking in motivation as an actor with his role? With such a rushed final reveal too, Jack ends up coming across as… just a bit of a dick.
Despite settling into a promising rhythm during the first half, with bright spots in the cast and amusing lines lifted directly from the novel, an important part of the novel’s essence and verve is left behind in this so-so adaptation.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★